During the summer transfer window, Leicester splashed out £20m to sign youngster James Maddison from Championship side Norwich. The fee was clearly a lot to pay for a 21-year-old and there is no doubt that Maddison came with the premium for an English player firmly attached to his price tag.
After an impressive first half of the season in the Championship last year, he was linked with both Liverpool and Tottenham in 2018’s January transfer window, but a move failed to materialise and it now seems as though the Foxes have pulled off a coup in getting the attacking midfielder to come to the King Power.
In his first few weeks of Premier League football Maddison has begun proving just why he belongs in the Premier League and has already started repaying his hefty price tag. What he has also done recently though is give England boss Gareth Southgate a selection headache, as Maddison would currently be a better option than Dele Alli for the national team.
The Leicester new boy has four caps for the England U21 side but Southgate must now promote him to the senior setup for the UEFA Nations League games against Croatia and Spain in October. So far this season, Maddison has three goals and one assist in just six league games for his new club and has easily made the jump up from the lower leagues, much like Alli did when he joined Spurs from MK Dons in 2015.
However, after his exertions with England in the summer, Alli has struggled to get going for Mauricio Pochettino’s side this season and has just one goal in five Premier League games having looked out of sorts before picking up a hamstring injury that kept him out of the loss to Liverpool.
It’s not just stats that support the argument for Southgate playing Maddison over Alli though. For the first five games of the season, Maddison was playing in his more natural position of attacking midfield. However, against Huddersfield last Saturday manager Claude Puel started the young star on the left and allowed him licence to roam inside onto his right foot.
This experience and his performance in this position could be crucial for Southgate as he sticks with his 3-1-4-2 formation where wing backs are the only players to offer width. This often means that, as one of three central midfielders, Alli is pulled out wide to support and this is not a position that the Tottenham man is comfortable in. In fact, since Southgate took over as Three Lions boss in 2016, Alli has recorded just one goal and three assists.
There is no doubt that the Tottenham man is now an established part of Southgate’s squad, but Maddison should be given the chance to impress that he has earned. The 21-year-old is the kind of player that England have failed to produce for so long – a fabulously technical footballer that likes to take the ball in tight situations and enjoys taking opponents on.
Throwing him in to the side now would hardly even be rushing him as Maddison has had experience in League One, the Championship and the Scottish Premiership after spells with Coventry, the Canaries and on loan at Aberdeen which have toughened him up and clearly aided his development. His confidence to come in and take over free-kick duties straight away at Leicester is also a measure of the man and, based on recent performances, he could go on to be the leading light from the current crop of Young Lions.